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Full text of "My country and my people"

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THE    CHINESE    CHARACTER               55
that this life shall be lived decently and happily within one's lot.
For the Chinese are a hard-boiled lot. There is no nonsense about them: they do not live in order to die, as the Christians pretend to do, nor do they seek for a Utopia on earth, as many seers of the West do. They just want to order this life on earth, which they know to be full of pain and sorrow, so that they may work peaceably, endure nobly, and live happily. Of the noble virtues of the West, of nobility, ambition, zeal for reform, public spirit, sense for adventure and heroic courage, the Chinese are devoid. They cannot be interested in climbing Mont Blanc or in exploring the North Pole. But they are tremendously interested in this commonplace world, and they have an indomitable patience, an indefatigable industry, a sense of duty, a level-headed common sense, cheerfulness, humour, tolerance, pacifism, and that unequalled genius for finding happiness in hard environments which we call contentment—qualities that make this commonplace life enjoyable to them. And chief of these are pacifism and tolerance, which are the mark of'a mellow culture, and which seem to be lacking in modern Europe.
Indeed it seems at times, on watching the spectacle of present-day Europe, that she is suffering less from a lack of "smartness" or intellectual brilliance than from the lack of a little mellow wisdom. It seems at times barely possible that Europe will outgrow its hot-headed youthfulness and its intellectual brilliance, and that after another century of scientific progress, the world will be brought so closely together that the Europeans will learn to take a more tolerant view of life and of each other, at the risk of total annihilation. They will perhaps learn to be a little less brilliant, and a little more mature. I have confidence that the change of view will be brought about, not by brilliant theories but by an instinct for self-preservation. Perhaps then the West will learn to believe less in self-assertion and more in tolerance, for tolerance will be direly needed when the world is closely knit together. They will be a little less desirous to make progress, and a little more anxious to understand life. And the voice of the Old Man of Hankukuan Pass will be listened to more widely.